Learn a Foreign Language, No Pressure
Speak Wolof in your spare time
More than one billion people speak Mandarin Chinese. The CIA might recruit you if you can translate Arabic. And Hausa could be your lingua franca if you find yourself in sub-Saharan Africa.
This semester the College of Arts & Sciences department of modern languages and comparative literature is offering free, informal introductory classes in five languages: Turkish, Arabic, Wolof, Chinese, and Hausa. The program, Globally Speaking, is offered to all members of the BU community.
The initiative comes thanks to a $500,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Defense, aimed at strengthening ROTC students’ knowledge of languages deemed important to national security. Although targeted to ROTC students, the courses are open to everyone.
Globally Speaking is designed to give a taste of a language, hopefully encouraging people to then move into courses for academic credit. All five languages have an affiliated international study-abroad program as well.
“We know there are students curious about exotic languages, but cautious about signing up,” says Globally Speaking organizer William Waters, a CAS associate professor and chair of modern languages and comparative literature. “Maybe they’re overcommitted, and they’re worried it may hurt their GPA. We want to give them an opportunity to dip in.”
Classes will involve quick conversations, with songs and games to teach about local culture. In the Turkish class, for example, students learn about the art of bargaining, important in a Turkish market. A class may focus on food, perhaps including an outing to a restaurant.
“The point is to take a study break; it’s not supposed to be like an actual class,” says Waters. “You could start going, maybe miss a week or two, but that would be OK. Maybe one week you try Turkish, one week you try Arabic. It should be fun.”
More than 40 percent of BU students study abroad at some point during their time here, according to International Programs. But a flexible, after-hours program could appeal to staff as well.
Shelley Bertolino, student life coordinator at BU’s Center for English Language and Orientation Programs, plans to take Turkish and Arabic. She hasn’t studied a foreign language in years, she says, but she is excited about learning. “When you have a communications breakdown between people who don’t speak the same language, you want to understand where the problem lies, what’s happening,” she says. “People appreciate it so much if you speak even a few words in their language. The fact that courses are in the evening is great because I work full-time.”
John Aslanian, marketing and communications coordinator for International Programs, says he plans to attend the sessions just because of linguistic curiosity. But there’s a pragmatic rationale, too. “The more languages American students can learn, the stronger they’ll be at home,” he says. “The United States is a multilingual society.”
The first night of Globally Speaking is tonight, Monday, September 28. Turkish is Mondays, 5-6 p.m.; Arabic is Mondays, 6-7 p.m.; Wolof is Mondays, 7-8 p.m.; Chinese is Tuesdays, 5-6 p.m.; Hausa is Tuesdays, 6-7 p.m. People are welcome to join throughout the semester. All sessions take place in the Photonics Center, Room 901, 8 St. Mary’s St., ninth floor. There is no registration necessary, just bring a BU ID. Giselle Khoury, senior lecturer in Arabic and head of the Arabic Language Program, is available for additional information.
Language Link, offered through the Educational Resource Center, also has free, informal foreign language classes. A list of its offerings and registration are available here.
Amy Laskowski can be reached at email@example.com Comments